Kin (2018) Review
“Kin” is a coming-of-age drama with a Sci-Fi woven backdrop that features state-of-the-art special effects and a deeply disturbing turn from Hollywood one-time it-boy James Franco.
“Kin” is an unlikely drama that genuinely took me by surprise. The film immediately rolls out its big guns with an explosive start in an abandoned warehouse before introducing our anti-hero Eli Solinski (Myles Truitt), a 14-year-old African-American kid with a wounded exterior who seems to have the weight of the world on his shoulders. Eli is scavenging for copper wire to trade for a new pair of sneakers in the very same location as the previous explosion. While scavenging he discovers several apparently dead soldiers from the future and a very high-tech gun, which responds to him warmly. A jump-scare later Eli abandons his search for copper and heads home with his new toy.
Thereon in we meet Eli’s working-class father, Hal (Dennis Quaid), a gruff, overworked but attentive man who wants the best for his son, and his recently released ex-con brother, Jimmy (Jack Reynor ), who is mixed up in dubious affairs with Taylor Balik, a local gangster, who protected Jimmy while behind bars. Now the gangster wants to collect his coin, but Jimmy’s father refuses to help clear his son’s debt. Once the family’s dynamics are established, Eli’s backstory is addressed, in which we find out he was adopted and his father is having to raise him by himself in the wake of his wife’s death. Hal’s biological son, Jimmy, feels as though Eli was brought into the family home to replace him, and the melodrama quickly turns up the heat a notch. Jimmy, Balik and some of Balik’s henchmen break into Hal’s construction company to rob the safe and pay off his debts. Not surprisingly, things quickly go south when Hal stumbles upon the scene and is shot. Jimmy makes a run for it and decides to hit the road with both the money and Eli, telling his brother they are going on an impromptu road trip to Tahoe for a few days.
Along the way Jimmy again finds himself knee-deep in more angst after taking on another group of career criminals. Here we meet Milly (Zoë Isabella Kravitz), a stripper with a heart. After a brief but effective showdown in the strip joint, where we get to see how powerful Eli’s new toy is, the brothers and the stripper hit the road together and begin bonding over their troubled past and their very near future.
Again “Kin” takes another unexpected U-turn when the futuristic soldiers wake and quickly trace the weapon that’s in Eli’s possession. Eli, Jimmy and Milly continue to pastures greener, a rundown motel on the highway, oblivious to the numerous parties in hot pursuit of them – the cops, who want to bust Jimmy for what happened back in Detroit; Balik and his henchmen, who want to kill them, and those otherworldly heavily-armoured soldiers, who have the ability to stall time and soup-up vehicles to the max.
The film’s gratuitous climax leaves the siblings with triple threats that may or may not cost them their lives. The closing sequence is action-packed and tosses in everything but the kitchen sink, creating the perfect environment for our unlikely heroes, with a last-minute exposition which leaves “Kin” wide open for a sequel. My only major gripe with the film’s showdown was the writers’ decision to ditch Milly from the proceedings, only to reinsert her just before the credits. This left me wondering how much of Zoë Isabella Kravitz’s scenes were left on the cutting room floor.
"Myles Truitt is the star of the show; he’s engaging at all times and conveys his character’s setbacks with ease and even during the more FX-heavy final Truitt never lets the side down or feels less believable."
The plus points of the movie, besides the SFX and action-driven final, are the casting and surprisingly solid acting. The unhinged Balik is played by James Franco, who’s clearly seen better days. Gone is his trademark smile, and instead we have a talented performer who appears to be dead behind the eyes and at a loss with his own identity. Again, Franco plays the professional persona of a drugged-up, spaced-out waste of space who has an addiction to big guns and pretty girls, which he seems to have embraced with ease, but even though the character is played straight Franco still manages to bring a mordant humour to the role, which effectively allows the audience a bit of time out from the heavy melodrama that systematically drags down the viewer intentionally to drive home its emotional family dynamics. Myles Truitt is the star of the show; he’s engaging at all times and conveys his character’s setbacks with ease and even during the more FX-heavy final Truitt never lets the side down or feels less believable. Had the character been played by a lesser actor the film could quite possibly have fallen apart.
“Kin”, directed by Jonathan Baker and Josh Baker, is certainly a movie I shall revisit. Every scene sets up the next, like links in a chain of dramatic action. The drama has a device, the characters have a point and it’s an extremely well-oiled concept with solid acting from all involved. Sure, there are moments here and there that slide oh so near to 70s Sci-Fi cheese but the film is sufficiently off-kilter and well-handled to ride it out. If you’re looking for a movie that will transport you back to the 90s home-video market you should definitely check out “Kin”.